Microdosing is all the rage right now. And so are mushrooms! In fact, it seems like everyone is microdosing shrooms these days — from celebrities to professionals to artists to parents to therapists. Taking small doses of psychedelics is even starting to replace the traditional social lubricants, such as alcohol. It’s also helping people curb the urge to partake in more addictive party-drugs, like cocaine. But what, exactly, is a “microdose?” How much are people taking, and should you become one with the microdosing movement, too?
There’s a lot to unpack here, so it’s important to get a handle on the basics. For some history, Indigenous people have used plant medicine for centuries to connect with the Earth, their ancestors, and deities. So, regardless of how you incorporate mushrooms into your life, remember to do so with reverence and respect — thank the ancestors before you consume.
It may seem unimportant or cheesy, but the West has a ruthless history of co-opting Indigenous cultures. For example, North America largely credits the discovery of psilocybin-producing mushrooms to writer and capitalist, R. Gordon Wasson. He wrote about finding psychedelic fungi in Huautla de Jimenez, a rural mountainous region just north of Oaxaca, Mexico, for Time Magazine. The story of his experience taking mushrooms in ceremony with Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina went viral — or, as viral as a story could go pre-internet — and set the stage for the ‘60s Counterculture Revolution.
But Wasson didn’t “discover” magic mushrooms or this Indigenous tradition. Rather, he took one aspect of Indigenous culture — completely out of context, mind you — and made it central to his narrative. He really couldn’t have been more disrespectful to the Mazatec tradition or people, particularly Maria Sabina who let Wasson in and showed him the sacrament of her lineage and people. The power dynamic in that situation is extremely distressing, but we’ll save that story for a different day. I digress...
Back to the modern history of microdosing! Taking tiny amounts of psychedelics dates back to the ‘70s, when mental health clinicians first began toying with psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. The advent of the Controlled Substances Act and the War on Drugs outlawed psychedelic substances indefinitely, however, halting all therapeutic application and research on these medicines.
Flashforward to 2011, psychologist and writer James Fadiman went public with the concept of microdosing psilocybin mushrooms in his book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. He’s not only credited for bringing the term “microdose” into the public sphere, but he also developed a method — known as the “James Fadiman Protocol” — to help people replicate his process and, thus, results. (He also cites the fact that Indigenous cultures have microdosed psychedelic plant medicines for millenia!) Iconic mycologist Paul Stamets also has a specialized microdosing approach. But more on these two methods in a sec.
The last thing you should know before hopping aboard the microdosing train is that there’s currently a massive void in research on the topic. That means you won’t find much in the way of scientific literature on the benefits — or risks — of microdosing mushrooms or psychedelics, in general. That can make prep and planning a bit challenging. So, we recommend reading everything written and produced on the topic, and having open dialogue with people who microdose. In this instance, the more information consumed and exchanged, the better!
So with all that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about microdosing psilocybin mushrooms.
What Is a Microdose?
By definition, a microdose is consuming a sub-perceptual dose of a psychoactive or psychedelic substance. In other words, a dose so small it doesn’t affect your field of vision. Typically, that breaks down to about one-tenth to one-twentieth of a recreational dose of psychedelics.
Specifically for mushrooms, that equates to roughly .1 to .5 of a gram of dried material. Keep in mind, however, that everyone’s preferred microdose will be different depending on factors, such as height, weight, and body chemistry. For me — a 31-year-old woman who’s 5’7 and 137 lbs — I feel a bit shroomy at .5, so I prefer to take .1 to .2 of a gram to ensure I don’t exceed a sub-perceptual dose.
Lastly, the most effective way to measure out a microdose is to use a scale that can weigh in grams. Break off pieces of mushrooms and pile the bits on a scale until you reach your desired micro-dosage. You can eat the mushroom pieces straight up; put them in a capsule and take it like a supplement; grind the pieces and put the bits into tea with a shot glass’ worth of lemon juice for quicker, stronger onset; or sprinkle the pieces into a PB&J sandwich. Consume them however you want! Just make sure your micro-dosage remains consistent.
How Do I Know If It’s Working?
If you can’t depend on trippy visuals, wobbly legs, and laughing attacks, how do you know if the mushrooms are working? One of the magical side effects of microdosing is learning to pay attention to subtle body shifts. Developing this level of acute awareness helps us intimately connect and understand what’s going on with our bodies on a cellular level.
While a microdose won’t make you feel any of the classic psychedelic sensory experiences, you may feel more confident and energized. You may have an elated mood and feel less anxious. You might be extra attentive to the intricacies of a pinecone or the beauty of puffy clouds in the sky — you know, a heightened appreciation for stoppig to smell the flowers. Or you might just feel like you’re having a really great day for seemingly no reason… or every reason.
Sounds lovely right?
As stated earlier, however, there is no clinical research on the benefits or risks of microdosing mushrooms and other psychedelics. That’s a pretty big issue considering how many people are microdosing today.
Thankfully, the clinical trials studying psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy offer some guidance as to what populations are potentially at risk. The conditions that disqualify people from participating in the clinical trials are pregnancy; hypertension and other underlying heart conditions; history of psychosis or a psychotic spectrum disorder, such as schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; other severe mental illness, such as borderline personality disorder; and first-degree relatives with any of these psychiatric conditions.
While not a core contraindication, those who have a history of seizures or epilepsy should also be extremely cautious with microdosing psilocybin or taking any amount of psychedelics. In short, psilocybin can cause a chemical imbalance in the brains of those with epilepsy. It’s also uncertain how psilocybin — a compound that acts on serotonin receptors — interacts with epilepsy medications.
Official Method One: The James Fadiman Protocol
Also referred to as the “Fadiman Protocol,” the main idea behind this methodology is devising a consistent microdosing schedule to avoid building up a tolerance. Here is what Fadiman suggests:
- Days 1-3: Microdose
- Days 4-5: Don’t microdose
- Repeat cadence.
Fadiman suggests people microdose like this for no more than two months straight while keeping track of moods, productivity, and other feelings and sensations in a journal. Consistency is the key here!
Official Method Two: Stamets Stacks
Paul Stamets’ microdosing method differs in two major ways from Fadiman’s. The first is that Stamets suggests a dosing protocol of five days on, two days off. His reasoning for this cadence is also to avoid building up a tolerance. Here is an example of this microdosing schedule:
- Days 1-5: Microdose
- Days 6-7: Don’t microdose
The second way Stamets’ method differs from Fadiman’s protocol is the concept of “stacking.” Stacking means ingesting other supplements in conjunction with the psilocybin-mushrooms. The famous “Stamets Stack” consists of taking:
- 1-10 mg of psilocybin (or sticking under .5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms)
- 50 – 200 mg of Lion’s Mane mushroom (a non-psychedelic, non-psychoactive mushroom)
- 100-200 mg of Niacin
Stamets says that combining psilocybin and Lion’s Mane has the capacity to create new neurons and neural pathways, and can also repair existing neurological damage.
There is quite a bit of variance in the recommended dose, so it might take some experimentation to figure out the ratio that’s ideal for you. Just keep in mind that Niacin can feel uncomfortable because it causes vasodilation and flushing of the skin. So proceed with caution!
Is There a Right or Wrong Way?
Keep in mind that these methods are not the only ways to microdose. Everyone has a unique chemical composition, meaning microdosing methods will differ from person to person. Understanding these methods, however, should give you a framework, or jumping off point, to dive safely into your microdosing journey.
By Mary Carreon